I Will Always be with You

by Varda
‘I’ll be gone two nights, three at the most. You’ll be all right, won’t you, Mr Frodo?’

It was mid-October, nearly a week after the 6th, the anniversary of Frodo’s wounding on Weathertop. That day had passed off without incident, even though it was a dark memory for them both, but still Sam felt uneasy leaving Frodo on his own at this time…

‘Don’t be silly!’ said Frodo looking up to where Sam was sitting on the wagon loaded with saplings.
‘I’ll be fine! I’ve managed on my own before, you know…’

But still Sam hesitated. It was a dull dark day, with a biting wind blowing out of the East, and Frodo looked pale and cold standing with one hand on the pony’s neck.

It had been a long golden summer, the best anyone could remember in the Shire, but now winter was closing in. Once the anniversary had passed, Sam’s mind had turned again to what he loved most; replanting and restoring the ravages of Sharkey’s paid ruffians in his once leafy Shire. All that year and the one before Sam had supervised the planting of trees, hedgerows and shrubs all over the Four Farthings and before the bad weather set in he wanted to restore the beech avenue in the Eastfarthing that had been hacked down by Sharkey’s men..

‘It’s the best time, Mr Frodo’ he had said, as if justifying his absence to himself .
‘..autumn is the best time to put in saplings. And if I stay over I can put down some daffodils so the banks won’t look so bare come spring….’
‘Just go, Sam!’ laughed Frodo. ‘It will give me some peace and quiet to get on with my book….’

But Frodo had a moment of unease when he heard Rosie would be away as well, visiting her aunt in Bywater. The good summer had brought untold wealth of apples and blackberrries and Rosie had volunteered to help with the bottling, and had been delayed.
‘Just make sure the Shire blooms again as it once did….’ Frodo said quietly to Sam as he sat still looking worried on the cart.

So off Sam went. Before he got the sleepy old horse moving he put a hand in his pocket to make sure he had the box. He slid his fingers over the polished wood of Lothlórien, and felt the raised letter ‘G’ on the lid. This was the box Galadriel had given him so long ago in the Golden Wood, when all the Fellowship received gifts. Inside it was earth from Lórien, and each time Sam planted a tree or shrub with great care he placed a pinch of that precious soil in the bottom of the planting trench. And so in even a short time The Shire had begun to bloom as never before….

Reassured by the touch of the smooth wood Sam shook the reins and waved goodbye to Frodo and the cart started forward and rolled off down the hill, the saplings wrapped in sacking swaying in the back. Frodo waved till the cart was out of sight, then turned and walked slowly back up the garden path and into Bag End…

Apart from the wind whispering along the long hall it was strangely quiet inside.
‘Autumn!’ shrugged Frodo to himself and went on into the study, sat down at the desk, piled high with papers and maps, and began to write…

After a while he laid down his pen and turned back the pages. In his account of his part in the Great War of the Ring, he saw he had written no entry for October 6th, the attack at Weathertop.
‘Now isn’t that silly!’ he said testily to himself. ‘Afraid of the dark! I better fill that in now, or I will forget it completely….’

Frodo picked up his pen but as he started to write he heard a sound outside in the hallway.
‘Hello!’ he shouted. ‘Who’s there?’

There was no answer. Frodo waited for a few moments but heard only the wind booming in the tall trees at the end of the garden. He shrugged and started again to write. But above the scratching of the pen he could hear a noise, and it was not wind…he stopped writing and listened carefully….

It was a sort of flapping and sliding, like bare feet, but not hobbit feet. Hobbits were light on their feet and did not shuffle. A tingle ran down Frodo’s spine; he had heard those flapping feet before. He laid down the pen and realised his hand was trembling; It could not be Gollum?

It was in Moria he had first heard that sound, a flapping and dragging. Over all the tramp of feet of the Fellowship he had heard it, with his keen hobbit ears. It was then he had his first glimpse of Gollum, and even now he remembered his horror. But Gollum was gone! Consumed by fire in Mount Doom….wasn’t he? Without thinking Frodo put his hand to his chest, inside his shirt. His fingers closed round the Evenstar given to him by Arwen. But to his horror he realised that he had been feeling not for that but for the Ring….

The dragging suddenly stopped, and in the silence Frodo heard a noise like exhaled breath. With an exclamation of fear and anger Frodo leaped to his feet and darted out into the hall and looked wildly up and down.

There was nothing there. In the hours since Sam had left darkness had fallen, but by the study light Frodo could see he had left the front door open. That must be it. Some leaves must have blown in. Still shaken in spite of himself Frodo walked down the hall to close the door when a shape flashed past the edge of his vision. He turned swiftly and saw something shoot round the corner of the hall into the darkened kitchen. He only had sight of it for a heartbeat but in that time he caught a glimpse of a trailing snakelike limb, bony and jointed like the claw of a giant insect.

Now terror closed round Frodo’s heart and he struggled for breath. Shelob? No, no…that was impossible! Yet Shelob was not dead, like Gollum. Who could know what had happened to her or where she was..the old sting wound in his shoulder began to ache …
‘No!’ Frodo said aloud, his voice startlingly loud. ‘Not Gollum or Shelob! What is happening to me…..?’

Almost as if in reply to his words the front door suddenly flew open with a deafening crash. Frodo leaped in fright, and looking out saw, silhouetted against the starlight in the round doorway, a hooded and cloaked figure. The study lamp had blown out and there was no light so Frodo could not see the figure’s face but where the eyes should have been there were two pinpricks of red light. From outside came the sound of the wind whipping the birch trees by the gate. Frodo could swear he heard his name called…and abruptly the figure, looking over its shoulder at him, beckoned once then turned and walked away….

For some moments Frodo stood rooted to the spot. He clutched the Elvenstone till his knuckles grew white, but it felt cold and looking down he saw it had not even a spark of light. Just a dull flicker of green far down in its depths.
‘I am on my own.’ thought Frodo. Forcing himself, he put one foot in front of the other till he reached the door. Then he drew a deep breath and stepped outside.

With night the cloud had thinned and now the moon showed a yellow arc just above the hill. In the dim sickly light the familiar garden looked frightening and strange. Strange wizened patches of white were Sam’s white roses by the door and the hedge was a rearing dragon. The sweat cooled on his face by the night wind Frodo walked out along the path and looked round. He saw nothing, and began to grow calm; perhaps it was some kind of waking dream…

‘Frodo!’

He whirled round. That was no dream, and he knew the voice, but could not bear to remember where he had heard it before...

‘Frodo!’

He looked to where the voice came from and there, in the faint moonlight, standing in front of the study window, was the Pale King, the Lord of the Nine…

When Frodo had first seen the Nazgul they were the Ringwraiths, riders shrouded in black. When Frodo put on the ring on Weathertop he had seen the Nine, and their Lord, as they had once been, only turned to ghostly figures, their raiment grey graveclothes, their silver crowns frosted with icy cold, their faces deathly white. Now before him Frodo saw that same Witch King, but dressed in a royal habit as in his life, a rich green gown glinting with golden embroidery and a dark blue cloak hemmed with red. His long hair was black and his face pale but only as one cold or tired. His eyes were bright and sharp and they fixed on Frodo, and he smiled.

‘Do not be afraid, Frodo’ he said in a calm deep voice ‘I will not hurt you….’

Suddenly finding his voice, Frodo shouted;
‘You cannot hurt me! You were destroyed forever, utterly destroyed! This is a dream….’

The apparition merely laughed, a clear high sound. Then he went on in his calm almost hypnotic voice…
‘That is what they told you, those Elves and Men and wizards. Never trust a wizard!’

And the shape laughed again, a sound that froze the heart within Frodo. He felt faint and could not answer. The King abruptly stopped laughing and said;
‘Take my hand; then you will see if I am a dream or not…’ and he held out his hand to Frodo, the skin gleaming white in the moonlight, a great silver ring set with a blood-red stone on the forefinger. But Frodo could not move for fear. He stood as if turned to stone, or as if he was the apparition, clasping his hands before him. Smiling, the figure approached him, and he had no strength to turn and run. It reached out its hand and placed it on Frodo’s.

At first it felt cold and hard, like the carapace of a giant insect. But then it seemed to grow warm. It imprisoned both Frodo’s hands and he looked up in despair into the grey eyes….
‘You were destroyed…’ He faltered ‘That was what it was all about…..why I did it, why we all fought..’

The voice was soft now, deep and almost gentle. It spoke;
‘No, Frodo. I cannot be destroyed. As long as you live I will live. I will always be with you. I am your past….’

The thought of being haunted for all time to come appalled Frodo, and he shook off the hand and leaped backwards with a cry. At once the face of the King changed to one of cold fury; the eyes glowed red, like dull coals and from a scabbard hidden under its robes it drew a long thin knife. Frodo gazed at it in horror; the tip was missing.

‘Yes!’ the voice hissed like a coiling snake. ‘The blade broke when I struck you! And even the great Lord Elrond could not take it all out. A black sliver is still inside you, Frodo, you are mine, mine till death takes you as well…Ringbearer!’
‘No! No!’ sobbed Frodo, and he turned to run.

But they were standing in Sam’s rose garden, the one he had planted in front of the study window in that spot where he had been caught eavesdropping. Sam called it Gandalf’s Garden. Roses trailed across the top of the window and along the path. One thorny vine lashed across Frodo’s face drawing blood and another wrapped itself round his ankle, flinging him to the ground. The Elvenstar round his neck was snagged and broken and thrown aside and the breath driven out of him. He lay with his arms outstretched, the moist earth only a few inches from his face, quite unable to move or flee. From behind a great gust of wind suddenly rushed across the garden, whirling withered leaves from the beech hedge, curled and dry and brown, like dead hands. They struck his face and he could not breath. As once so long ago he whispered;
‘Elbereth…’

And a woman’s voice, neither that of Arwen nor of Galadriel nor of anyone he knew spoke softly in his ear;
‘Do not be afraid, Frodo! It has no power over you...’

And the sudden wind passed over the garden with a sound like a cry of loss and rage and peace fell once more on Bag End. Frodo lay exhausted, but he knew without looking that the Ghost King was gone. He put his head down on the damp earth and fell into darkness.

It was Tom Cotton who found him, or rather Tom's nephew Wuzrun, known to all in Hobbiton as Wart. It was mid-morning, dull and cold after a night of rain and they were taking a cartload of firewood up the hill past the gate of Bag End. Tom knew Sam was away and looked into the garden just to see if all was well.
‘There’s a deal of leaves brought down by last night’s gale!’ he said to Wart. ‘You go take a brush and sweep the path for Mr. Frodo…'
'There's someone lying on the ground!' interrupted Wart, catching sight of a white shirt in the grass..

Tom drew up the pony, Mildew, who was never sorry to be stopped, and calling to Wart to follow him he ran through the front gate, which for some reason was hanging off its hinges, and over to the rose garden to where Frodo was lying face down, as if dead.

‘Mr. Frodo! Mr. Frodo…’ he called, gently turning him over. There had been heavy rain and Frodo’s clothes and hair were wet, but Tom thought he could see a flutter of breath.
‘Open the door till we bring him inside!’ Tom ordered Wart as he picked Frodo up in his arms. But when the boy reached the door it was already open, and the woven mat inside was soaked, so Tom knew it had been open a long time, and that Frodo had lain out in the dark and wet and cold all night….

‘Poor creature!’ muttered Tom to himself. ‘What on earth took him outside? And what will Sam say…?’

He carried Frodo inside, down the hall and into the bedroom, calling to Wart to heat some water. He laid the unconscious hobbit on the bed and began to unbutton his wet shirt. Wart ran in with a tower soaked in warm water and Tom carefully sponged away the blood from the cut under Frodo's eye. As he did so Frodo opened his eyes, looked wildly round and tried to sit up.
‘Where is the king?’ he cried.
‘King?’ asked Tom, baffled. ‘Well, most likely in Gondor, taking care of his affairs…’
Frodo looked at him in terror.
‘Is he really gone?’
‘Well I don’t know that he was ever here’ said Tom, still bewildered. ‘Not in the Shire, that is….’
‘I don’t think he means King Elessar’ said Wart, who was not as slow as folk thought him, according to Sam who had a great liking for the lad. Now he knelt down by the bed and took Frodo’s hand and placed Arwen’s jewel in it.
‘I found this in the garden, Mr.Frodo. You must have dropped it when you fell….’

As an old hobbit, many years later when things of such beauty were no longer seen in the world, Wart would remember how the candlelight danced and sparkled in the depths of the Elvish stone...

Frodo raised his hand and gazed at the jewel. It shed a faint silver light in the dim room, and he felt his terror grow less. He went to put it on but was too weak. Wart took it from him and fumbled with the catch. He noticed that the chain was not broken, but had come undone as if by itself. When he joined it round Frodo’s neck it seemed to clasp as if by itself. Frodo lay back on the bed exhausted by the effort. Tom turned to go and fetch the water, but Frodo called him back;
‘Mr.Cotton?’
‘Aye, Mr.Frodo?’ said Tom.

‘Don’t tell Sam…..’